From the outset Hilson does little to prove she's anything more than a guest vocalist. A hefty chunk of the record comprises collaborations with hip-hop's biggest egos, so it's pretty much inevitable that she finds herself upstaged. Lead single 'Return The Favour', with its neat call-and-response tussling, may be one of the album's highlights, but it remains very much a Timbaland affair. Likewise, 'Turnin' Me On', her duet with Lil Wayne, has all the right ingredients for a cracking electro-R&B stomper, but any trace of personality and style is inched out by heavy synths and excessive production.
Hilson's solo efforts fail to offer much of an improvement. 'Slow Dance', a 90s-sounding R&B ballad in the Braxton/Brandy mould, is a bit too sickly-sweet with its "make this moment last forever babe" lyrics. Meanwhile, 'Tell Him The Truth' and 'Where Did He Go', presumably included to spotlight Hilson's emotional side, simply end up blending into one another as the tracklisting trundles on. However, In A Perfect World... isn't entirely lacking in choice cuts. Hilson gets to show a bit of attitude on a bitter break-up song called 'How Does It Feel', while 'Alienated's mix of electro blips and whispery raps is undeniably alluring.
Given the swathe of top names on production duties here - Timbaland, Danja, Polow Da Don, The Runaways - it's surprising that the end result shows so little spark. It's a case of "too many cooks" for Hilson as she struggles to create a distinct sound in among the clattering collaborations and run-of-the-mill ballads. If she can't come up with the goods second time round, she may forever be resigned to the role of worthy collaborator rather than posing a threat to the Rihanna and Beyoncés of this world.